In recent years I have been critical of those in power in the Irish Football Association.
would not hesitate to name them, as was the case just under 12 months ago when Northern Ireland fans were furious about international ticket prices.
I felt £50 for individual World Cup qualifier tickets was excessive.
Fans had every right to vent their rage and express their feelings during the games.
At the time, I called for a meeting between the Irish Football Federation and fan group representatives to sort out the pitiful mess and find an acceptable pricing structure that both parties were happy with and happy to follow.
There was no point in continuing to shoot. Permission was required.
After a series of meetings between the IFA and the Northern Ireland Supporters’ Club around Christmas, it was stated that there was an agreement and there appeared to be a pacification ahead of Nations League matches.
A deal was made whereby campaign cardholders or bookies would pay £32 per match, which seems fair.
But after a relative lull over ticket prices, an outcry erupted this week as the Irish Football Association released details of next month’s match against Kosovo, with the cheapest individual adult ticket for the games costing £40.
Since the success of the League of Nations is long gone, the fans are unhappy with the high prices.
In the current financial climate, not everyone can afford the luxury of being the owner of a campaign map, and those people who have families will choose their games wisely. Therefore, I sympathize.
But I don’t put the blame on the Irish Football League, not this time.
The IFA held a negotiating meeting with representatives of the supporters and an agreement was reached.
They knew what the pricing structure would be, and if they didn’t like it, why take the offer?
In my book the tables have changed and if you have a problem solve it with Union.
They had a chance to negotiate deals for ALL Northern Ireland fans and that’s exactly what they had to do. Blaming the Association is ridiculous. I would be the first to criticize if I felt it was justified, but not in this case.
The Association can now claim that they have received the best deal for their members who are campaign card holders and it was not their job to negotiate for those fans who are not members of the supporter’s club.
But in my eyes they speak and represent ALL Northern Ireland fans, especially when it comes to ticket prices. The fact that a supporter from Northern Ireland does not belong to a supporter’s club does not make him any less fanatical. The fact that a fan can only attend one or two matches in Northern Ireland per year does not make them any less fanatical, and all of these should have been taken into account in these discussions with the Irish Football Federation.
The interests of all fans from Northern Ireland had to be respected.
The association may feel in the meeting that there should have been some compromises, but at the end there was a handshake and an agreement was made.
It is disappointing that the Association was criticized as I felt that they were trying to sort out the situation.
Of course, there are different price points for each part of Windsor Park, and the same goes for matches against higher nations.
I always felt there was an obvious solution. You have one adult square price per game, and discounted junior tickets. But I also know that it’s not that easy.
Maybe it’s for another meeting in the future.
When you’re an Irish League player and given the chance to join a Premier League club, how do you turn it down?
I wish Kofi Ballmer all the best at Crystal Palace, this is an incredible transition for him.
But in terms of football, I would really like to see him follow the example of Shane Lavery or Trey Hume and move to a club, perhaps from the first league or the championship, where he has a chance to break into the first team this season.
There is such a gap between the Irish League and the Premier League that I feel Kofi (left) could get lost in their under-23 program.
And playing football until the age of 23 for Kofi is a step aside. He would have been better off playing Irish League football with Larne.
The first thing Kofi should do when he arrives at Palace is try to get a loan on loan. I’m serious.
It may sound crazy, but he really needs to be at a club in, say, the first league where he is fighting for a place in the first team.
I know how these academies work and how clubs are looking for experienced young people to coach players. Palace Academy doesn’t even use the same facilities or fields as the first team, so Kofi isn’t under the watchful eye of the first team’s coaches.
Kofi, 21, is at an age where he needs to gain as much first team experience as possible – as futile as Conor Bradley at Bolton and when Alfie McCalmont and Ethan Galbraith were loaned out last year. Leeds United. and Manchester United respectively.
Or when Conor McMenamin moves into interchannel football, I feel like it will be with a club that gives him the opportunity to compete for a first team spot.
When I thought about moving to the club, one of the important things for me was to be able to play first team football at the earliest opportunity. Obviously nothing is guaranteed, but you can ask the manager if he sees you as first team material.
I felt it was so important. The last thing I wanted was to be a national team player or sit on the bench for a long time.
I hope Kofi will be able to clean up and I’m glad and happy that he was given this chance.
Now go and play and get the most out of it.